How To Cook Greens

Learn how to cook greens, like collards, mustard, and turnip. Our guide teaches you selection and prep tips, the best cooking technique, and flavoring too!

So many people are afraid to go down the deep, dark leafy greens path. I know, because I used to be one of them!

I mean, anything that is THAT good for you has to be yucky, right?

Okay, here's the truth of the matter. Dark greens tend to have a strong flavor. They're LOADED with iron and calcium, so due to that nutrient content they can be a little, shall we say, hard to swallow.

Fortunately, we're here to help you find your way to the bright, tasty side of greens -- the happy place where they taste delicious and super satisfying.

I pinky swear!    :)

How To Select Greens

If you're new to leafy greens, they all seem to look alike. Well, at least that's what I used to think before I started to cook with them. Collards were the very last green I added to my repertoire.


I don't know, maybe it's because the name sounds so strange. (Collard? What the hell?)

But once you get to know each green a little better, they'll look SO different from each other. Sure, they're all dark and leafy, but soon you'll see the differences are quite striking.

The leaves of collards are quite flat with white "veins" that run from the stem up through the leaves. The leaf begins pretty close to the bottom of the stem. The edges are slightly wavy, but not curly (like some varieties of kale).

Then you have turnip greens, which are similar to collards in the way the leaf is flat with just some wavy ends. However, the leaves are skinnier -- and the stem is quite a bit longer leading up to where the leaf actually begins.

Mustard greens are similar in nature to kale because the leaves are curly. The biggest difference is that if you look closely at a curly kale leaf, you'll see that it is curly nearly from the center of the leaf. Where mustard greens start out flat from the center of the leaf, and get very curly on the edges.

Look for Greens that are firm and not wilting at all. The leaves should look pretty and "at attention", and of course GREEN.

How To Clean and Prep Greens

So, here's the deal. Greens are so bitter, the little critters don't enjoy them. Unlike, say, broccoli which you have to be CERTAIN to clean thoroughly, greens? Well, sometimes if I'm in a hurry I'll just hold them under running water to give them a good rinse.

That said, here is the proper way to clean your greens...

Fill a large bowl or Salad Spinner with fresh water and 1-2 Tbsp. of vinegar or lemon juice (or other foodie acid like lime juice) and soak for 5-10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Your greens are now ready to go.

Just one more thing...

It's best to remove the lower stalks before cooking. That's because the stalks take longer to cook than the leaves. Some people like the stalks, and for some they take some getting used to. I like the added texture it adds to the wilted leaves and highly recommend you give them a try sometime. Just be sure to cut the stalks into 1" pieces for easiest chow down.

You Asked...

"Which greens combine best with each other? For example, is it tasty to saut√© mustard greens and spinach together or is their cooking time too different?"

Absolutely, play around with your greens! Cook any and all greens together you would like to. Whatever makes them more enjoyable for you so you eat them!    ;)

How To Cook Greens

Click to learn more about the cooking technique we use and recommend for greens...

A ceramic-coated saute pan with a lid

You Asked...

"Would wine be a good liquid in which to cook greens, like collards or kale?"

Definitely a fun idea. Wine, however, can be a little tricky. Let's say you added wine to a hot pan. The alcohol will get cooked out of it, leaving the concentrated flavors of the wine behind, such as sweet berry flavors. So you can see how the wine you choose can make a huge difference to your finished dish.

However, if you like the idea of alcohol in your dish, you would have to add some water (or veg broth) to the pan first, and then add the wine. The more water or other liquid in the pan before the wine is added, the less the alcohol will be cooked out of your dish; and the less water or other liquid in the pan before the wine is added, the more the alcohol will get cooked out leaving only the flavor behind.

So it all depends on what you're going for and what your taste buds prefer -- and whether or not children will be eating it!    :)

Greens Vegan Flavor Matches

Create your very own greens recipes with some of your favorite ingredients from this list of foods that match perfectly.

(What are Flavor Matches?)

  • Bacon bits (vegetarian, of course)
  • Bell peppers, especially red
  • Black-Eyed Peas
  • Butter, non-dairy (I like organic Earth Balance)
  • Carrots
  • Cayenne
  • Chili peppers
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut nectar
  • Cream, organic and non-dairy (I like Silk Soy Creamer. Use sparingly -- this is not a health food)
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeno
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Liquid smoke
  • Maple Syrup
  • Mint
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Peanuts
  • Pepper, black
  • Shallots
  • Soy, organic
  • Thyme
  • Tomato
  • Vinegar
  • Walnuts

Try One Of These Vegan Greens Recipes...

Jeff's Vegetable-Bean Soup
Hearty Vegetable Soup
Mexican Pizzettes
Italian Rice and Black Bean Burritos
Vegan Panini
Mediterranean Kale (sub Collards)

Greens Helpful Hints

  • One pound of raw will typically serve 2-3 people. It seems like a lot until it's cooked -- it WILL shrink!
  • Never wash before storing, or they'll wilt. (sad face!)
  • To freeze for a long period, blanch till the color turns bright in hot boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run cold water over the top. Remove any excess water from the surface (setting it out to dry works great) and place in freezer bags, or containers. Then when needed, thaw to room temperature, removing only as much veggie as you require.

Happy cooking!

If You Like Greens Try...

Photo of kale
Photo of spinach
Photo of Swiss chard
Swiss Chard!
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